By Delaney Fox, Staff Writer
The Saint Vincent Lake has been a source of enjoyment and recreation for the Saint Vincent community since its creation in 1921. In recent years, however, Saint Vincent Lake has been experiencing severe erosion and eutrophication. After several consultations, the Archabbey has made the decision to slowly convert the lake into clear water wetlands.
This severe erosion has affected the structural integrity of the lake itself. According to an article written by Kim Metzgar, director of Archabbey and Seminary Public Relations, there is a large section of the embankment that used to be 24 feet which currently spans between six and eight feet in width.
The erosion is not the only issue damaging Saint Vincent Lake. A build-up of silt over time has led to a decreased depth of waters; most of the lake has a depth of four feet or less. Because of the shallow water, the lake is also experiencing eutrophication.
According to Oxford Languages, eutrophication occurs when too much nutrients in the water causes a dense growth in plant life, such as algae. While the plant life adds to the green color of the lake, it also causes a lack of oxygen in the water. Many species cannot survive the conditions created by a state of eutrophication.
The Westmoreland Conservation District conducted a study of the lake, reporting its findings in 2018.
Eutrophication “limits the diversity and amount of life able to survive in these oxygen-depleted conditions… Converting this existing lake into a thriving wetland is an opportunity to create a diverse habitat for a whole new niche of wildlife both micro and macro in scale,” the report stated.
The Archabbey considered steps to maintain Saint Vincent Lake in its current form, but the recommendations were costly, so they decided to pursue other options.
After several additional consultations and “discussion with monastic community members over the last four years,” the decision was made to convert the lake into a series of recreational wetlands ponds, Fr. Earl J. Henry, president of the Wimmer Corporation, explained in Metzgar’s article.
The plans for converting the lake are long-term. One of the initial steps will be reducing the water level of the lake, which would in turn reduce the rate of erosion and the pressure on the southern bank.
“This would eliminate a safety issue and allow time for plans to be created and funding to be sought and approved for creation of the wetlands,” Metzgar said.
Henry noted the Benedictine Hallmark of stewardship, which involves caring for all of Creation.
“Saint Vincent continues to care for God’s creation, adapting its resources to changing environmental needs. We look forward with eagerness to the educational and recreational benefits which the quiet beauty and the unique ambiance the wetland promises,” Henry said.
Students, staff, monks, and the local community can expect to see a gradual increase in the diversity of wildlife, opportunities for recreational activities such as hiking, and the water becoming more purified with the introduction of the wetland ponds.